The NFL trade deadline has passed and the Jaguars were able to take advantage of the wheeling and dealing before the buzzer sounded.
The Jaguars dealt a conditional sixth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for former All-Pro defensive tackle Marcell Dareus on Friday. While the Jaguars were unable to improve their up-and-down offense before the trade market closed, they were able to add more muscle to the team's strongest group.
With the roster largely set for the post-bye week stretch, I have five thoughts on the Jaguars moving forward:
1) Eli Manning didn't make sense for the Jaguars
You can connect-the-dots all you like, but a Manning deal was a pipe dream for both Jaguars and Giants fans.
For one, the Jaguars have never been eager to deal early picks for aging veterans under general manager Dave Caldwell. He treats first, second and third-round picks like they are gold, as he should. It would have made no sense to deal a second or third-round pick to the Giants based on Manning's legacy.
Speaking of Manning's legacy, if the Jaguars traded for him, that's probably all they would be acquiring. Manning has regressed over the last two seasons. The Giants aren't just 1-6 because the offensive line is awful and Odell Beckham is out for the year. Manning has struggled to put the Giants on his back and New York is going nowhere partially because of him.
Compare Manning's numbers to those of incumbent quarterback Blake Bortles:
A) 167-of-260 (64.2%) for 1,600 passing yards, 6.2 yards per attempt, 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions
B) 115-of-196 (58.7%) for 1,398 passing yards, 7.1 yards per attempt, 9 touchdowns and 5 interceptions
Which one is which?
The first set of stats belongs to Manning, while the second set belongs to Bortles. Both have played 7 games.
The Giants have played from behind quite a bit and Manning has been able to keep his completion percentage high against prevent defense while throwing 64 more times than Bortles. The Jaguars' current quarterback has a par-for-his-course completion percentage, but his 7.1 yards per attempt is somewhat appealing.
The two quarterbacks have a similar touchdown-to-interception ratio.
While Manning is undoubtedly the better quarterback, it's clear he isn't going to give you much more than Bortles.
Manning has a $22.2 million cap hit next season, while the Jaguars can get out of Bortles' $19 million fifth contract year if he can pass a physical in March.
If both are offering similar results, does it really make sense to trade a high pick to acquire a player with a larger guaranteed salary?
Did I mention that Manning is 36? Why give yourself a decreased window at quarterback when you could wait for a better, younger option in free agency (here's looking at you, Kirk Cousins)?
On paper, a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback being added to the fray mid-season seems appealing, especially with Tom Coughlin's presence looming large at EverBank Field. However, looking at it under the microscope shows some clear faults in the logic of adding Manning in the twilight of his career, when he is clearly regressing to the point where he can't carry an offense.
2) Marcell Dareus was a worthwhile gamble
The Jaguars are big believers in "iron sharpening iron." Adding a former Pro Bowl defensive tackle to the mix will not only give the defensive line rotation more options but also push incumbent starters, Malik Jackson and Abry Jones, to pick up their play.
The Jaguars were no doubt struggling to stop the run. A 6-foot-3, 331-pound nose tackle was their answer.
The run defense was a massive issue in the first seven weeks and if this is how the Jaguars plan to solve the problem, kudos to them for being proactive.
The contract is steep, but it's a really a 20-month gamble. Those are the kind of bets that Caldwell has made throughout this tenure. It plays into his way of thinking.
A conditional sixth-round pick is a small price to pay in trade compensation when you consider who the Jaguars have selected in that round recently: QB Brandon Allen, DE Tyrone Holmes, DT Michael Bennett and C Luke Bowanko.
Plus, the Jaguars still have seven picks after acquiring a seventh-round pick from the Chris Smith trade with the Cincinnati Bengals. Smith needed to be active for six games for the Jaguars to receive the pick. He has played in seven games this season.
3) Pump the brakes on Dede Westbrook
It's good to have high expectations for a talented player. However, when you consider that Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook is a rookie and is coming off eight weeks on the shelf due to core surgery, you need to be aware of potential growing pains.
Westbrook has tons of talent, despite being a fourth-round selection. He had some off-the-field issues and his 6-foot, 178-pound frame scared some NFL draft pundits.
Still, Westbrook produced 13 catches for 288 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason. It was an impressive exhibition performance.
However, we have to keep in mind that his snaps were against several players who are currently out of the league right now. Some will never play a regular season game in the NFL.
Westbrook has yet to really battle the cream of the crop at cornerback. He will get his chance once he returns to the field.
Playing wide receiver in the NFL as a rookie is tough for pretty much everyone.
Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown caught just 16 passes for 167 receiving yards in nine games as a rookie. Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey caught 24 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games as a rookie in Chicago.
If you're expecting Westbrook to step on the field and suddenly make the Jaguars' offense elite, you may be disappointed. So far this year, only two rookie wide receivers have produced more than 300 receiving yards through 7 or 8 games.
Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster caught seven passes for 193 yards and a touchdown in Week 8. Prior to that performance, he averaged 33 receiving yards per game. He now leads all rookie wide receivers with 24 catches for 424 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Westbrook will be an important offensive piece for the Jaguars moving forward but expectations should at least be tempered in the early going. If he exceeds the projections, it will provide terrific results. If he struggles early, it's understandable.
Westbrook was officially designated to return from injured reserve Monday. He may play in the Week 9 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.
4) The Jaguars failed to improve the offense, may not have had options
As I mentioned with Westbrook, his work should be monitored with patience. However, when a team is in a playoff push, a sense of urgency needs to be prevalent in everything.
The Jaguars' starting wide receivers, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee, played well in the Week 7 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Prior to that game, they both struggled to find consistency. It's fair to want more, especially with rookie Keelan Cole still learning the ways of "The Force."
It seemed like the Miami Dolphins were - at one point - willing to talk about trading former Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry. While the former LSU wide receiver is mostly limited to the slot receiver position, that's exactly what the Jaguars need at this point.
Landry has great hands and gets open with relative ease. His inclusion in the Jaguars' offense probably would have opened things up for the team's tight ends and allowed the wide receivers on the outside to play in more space.
The Jaguars didn't get a deal done and they may never have been interested. Maybe the Dolphins didn't want to deal Landry after all, as ESPN reported late in the afternoon.
Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron also seemed like a worthwhile add but that was also probably a long shot.
It would have been encouraging to see another weapon added to the offense in time for a playoff run.
5. The Jaguars control their own destiny in the AFC South
Jacksonville doesn't need to win the division to make the playoffs, as they are well within range for a wild card spot. However, winning the AFC South for the first time ever would be quite the accomplishment under the newly-formed regime.
The Jaguars and Titans are tied at 4-3. While Tennessee owns the tie-breaker, Jacksonville can void that issue with a win over their rivals in Week 17.
The Jaguars also need to continue to win in the division elsewhere. Jacksonville still has rematches against the Texans and Colts later this season. The Jaguars blew both out in their first matchups but that won't matter if they drop the second contests.
The Jaguars are 2-1 in the division. If they finish 4-2 with one of the future wins coming against the Titans, the Jaguars should be in the driver seat of the division.
The Colts are 2-6 and the Texans are 3-4. It's time for the Jaguars to win consecutive games and pull away from their division rivals.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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